Market Street Revisited

I am working on a series of photographs that attempts to capture the “grand view” of San Francisco, particularly in the evening. As part of this work, I returned to Twin Peaks to capture a night image of Market Street leading up to the Ferry Building. I thought it might be interesting to compare this image to one taken in the daytime that I discussed in a previous post. Here is the daytime image:

Market Street, San Francisco. from Twin Peaks, Daytime
Market Street, San Francisco. from Twin Peaks, Daytime

And here is the night-time image:

Market Street at Night from Twin Peaks
Market Street at Night from Twin Peaks

I am actually quite impressed with the sharpness of this photo, considering that it is a High Dynamic Range (HDR) composite of three images with exposures varying from 3 seconds to 30 seconds, all at f/18, ISO 400. The focal length was ~300 mm. Focusing was manual using LiveView mode. It is a bit hard to judge sharpness at the resolution required for the web, so here is a direct comparison of the Ferry Building pixels from each image:

Comparison of the night HDR composite (left) and the daytime shot (right).
Comparison of the night HDR composite (left) and the daytime shot (right).

Most of the degradation in the HDR night image seems to be noise, although there is some lack of sharpness.

While these images are interesting,  I was more interested in capturing the city lights. Here is the image cropped as intended:

City Lights along Market Street
City Lights along Market Street

This scene is only present over the Christmas/New Year holidays, with the Ferry Building tower illuminated red and buildings in the Financial District outlined in lights. These are wonderful additions to an always stunning skyline.

One thing I find interesting about this photo is that Market Street seems anchored at the Ferry Building but floating further and further above its suroundings as it comes toward the viewer. Do you see this illusion as well, or is it only me?

One thing I discovered is that the use of HDR for this scene is not strictly necessary. In the next image I started with the -2EV under exposure  (to minimize the extent the highlights were blown out), and then used the amazing capability the various sliders in  Adobe Camera Raw to bring most of the tones within range. With both the HDR and non-HDR image, I did quite a bit of masking and local adjustments of contrast, brightness and white balance using Photoshop’s ‘curves’ and ‘levels’ functionality.

City Lights on Market Street (non-HDR)
City Lights on Market Street (non-HDR)

Which do you prefer, the HDR or non-HDR image?

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6 Comments

  1. Hi Douglas, I too like the HDR image, but like the others as well. Do you ever use Nik software? Their grain-reduction tool, Dfine, is terrific and might help on the HDR image if the grain bothers you.

  2. I like the non-HDR best actually 😀 Which is a relief, because I tried some HDR programs recently and found them quite slow and not user friendly at all (and the results looked over-manipulated)! So maybe I just choose to prefer the non-HDR :-p

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